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Ranking the Top 8 Champions League Second-Leg Comebacks

Tristan BarclayContributor IApril 7, 2014

Ranking the Top 8 Champions League Second-Leg Comebacks

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    DUSAN VRANIC

    The Champions League threw up its usual supply of excitement with the first round of the quarter-final stage, leaving the likes of Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund in need of extraordinary comebacks in the second leg to have any chance of progressing.

    But neither side are completely out of the running. While Chelsea went down 3-1 to Paris Saint-Germain and Dortmund lost 3-0 to Real Madrid, the history of the Champions League is littered with teams overturning daunting second-leg deficits to reach the next round.

    Here we run the rule over the best second-leg comebacks. That rules out one of the greatest ever—Liverpool's 2005 final effort against AC Milan—but the following eight are still some of the most memorable nights seen in European football.

8. Barcelona vs AC Milan, 2013 Last 16

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    Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0 (Barcelona won 4-2 on aggregate)

    After years of playing the most attractive yet destructive football ever seen, was the Barcelona empire finally beginning to crumble? Did AC Milan's 2-0 first-leg win signal the beginning of the end for a golden generation of Catalan footballers?

    Of course not. A Messi double helped Barca on their way to an astonishing 4-0 win at the Nou Camp, which not only sent them through to the quarter-finals, but also saw them become the first team in Champions League history to overcome a two-goal first-leg deficit without the advantage of an away goal (h/t goal.com).

7. Juventus vs Real Madrid, 1996 Quarter-Final

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    LUCA BRUNO

    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1 (Juventus won 2-1 on aggregate)

    Two of the giants of European football met in the quarter-finals, with both sides tipped as possible Champions League winners. A single first-leg goal from a young Raul put Madrid in the driving seat going to Turin.

    The second leg was a stormy affair, with seven yellow cards and two straight reds dished out between the two teams. But goals from Alessandro Del Piero and Michele Padovano meant Juve had enough to reach the semi-finals, where they overcame Nantes to set up a final against Ajax. The 1996 final went to penalties, with the Old Lady scoring four to Ajax's two, sending the trophy to Turin.

6. Arsenal vs Porto, 2011 Last 16

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Arsenal 5 Porto 0 (Arsenal won 6-2 on aggregate)

    The Gunners' 5-0 rout of Porto might not rank very high on the tension scale, but in terms of an emphatic second-leg win, it's difficult to find one more convincing than the 2011 last-16 clash.

    Porto secured a 2-1 win in the first leg and traveled to the Emirates to find Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner under fire after a series of poor Premier League performances. The visitors (along with perhaps every other football fan on the planet) could not have expected the Dane to fire a hat-trick as Arsenal hammered Porto to advance to the quarter-finals.

5. Deportivo La Coruna vs Milan, 2004 Quarter-Final

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Deportivo La Coruna 4 AC Milan 0 (Deportivo won 5-4 on aggregate)

    There was a time when AC Milan ruled the Champions League with an iron grip and it seemed as though their path to the 2004 final was wide open after a 4-1 first-leg victory over Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter-final stage.

    The plucky Spaniards refused to read the script however, putting four past the Rossoneri in the second leg. Much vaunted stars such as Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo were dominated by an inspired Deportivo team effort, with Maldini only able to offer this simple explanation: "Sometimes the other team has a perfect night." (h/t Sheridan Bird of Mirror Online).

4. Barcelona vs Chelsea, 2000 Quarter-Final

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    Barcelona 5 Chelsea 1 aet (Barcelona won 6-4 on aggregate)

    Chelsea and Barcelona have enjoyed some epic encounters in Champions League history, but the most extreme was surely the 2000 quarter-final. Chelsea traveled to the Nou Camp buoyed by a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge, but a team with the likes of Rivaldo, Luis Figo and Pep Guardiola among the ranks were always likely to hit the net.

    Barca opened the scoring with goals from Rivaldo and Figo, but a Tore Andre Flo goal for Chelsea on the hour, followed by a Dani Garcia strike for Barca, saw the tie go into extra time. A red card for Celestine Babayaro did little to help Gianluca Vialli's side, but in truth Barca were just too strong as the game wore on. Scores from Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert sent the Catalan side through to the semi-finals.

3. Monaco vs Real Madrid, 2004 Quarter-Final

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    AS Monaco 3 Real Madrid 1 (Tie drawn 5-5, Monaco through on away goals)

    After a four-goal firestorm at the Santiago Bernabeu, pundits and fans alike were hailing Real Madrid's progression to the semi-finals as a mere formality. The small matter of Monaco's two away goals from the first leg did not register as a problem for the Spanish giants.

    When they opened the scoring in Monaco, Raul putting Real in front, it seemed nothing could stop Los Blancos from progressing. But that was to forget the jilted Real forward Fernando Morientes. Sent out to Monaco on loan, Morientes came back to haunt his employers, netting after a brace from Ludovic Giuly to knock Real out and send Monaco through. 

2. Chelsea vs Napoli, 2012 Last 16

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    Chelsea 4 Napoli 1 aet (Chelsea won 5-4 on aggregate)

    Andre Villas-Boas' unhappy reign at Chelsea reached its nadir with the Blues' 3-1 drubbing away to Napoli in the 2011/12 edition of the Champions League. With Chelsea legends Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole on the bench, and Napoli's Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi running riot, the writing was on the wall for AVB.

    When the second leg came around, the Portuguese had been replaced by fans' favourite Roberto Di Matteo. He reinstated the old guard, a decision that paid off as John Terry, Didier Drogba and Lampard dragged Chelsea level. The tie went to extra time with the Stamford Bridge faithful nervously chewing their nails, but a late strike from Branislav Ivanovic ensured Chelsea went through on one of their most memorable European nights.

1. Juventus vs Manchester United, 1999 Semi-Final

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    Juventus 2 Manchester United 3 (United won 4-3 on aggregate)

    Manchester United produced a famous comeback in the 1999 final to snatch the title from Bayern Munich's grasp, but the Red Devils were forced to conjure an earlier great escape against Juventus in the semi-final stage.

    United managed to hold Juve to a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Old Trafford, meaning Sir Alex Ferguson's men traveled to Turin with an uphill battle to reach the final. Hardly 10 minutes into the second leg and two Filippo Inzaghi strikes made it almost impossible.

    But United were able to call on captain Roy Keane, who took the game by the scruff of the neck and shook his side into life. Keane's headed goal was followed by strikes from Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, sending United into the final. A yellow card for the captain meant he missed the final, but United owed it all to Keane.

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